The Valparaiso University baseball team battled back to earn a split in Saturday’s doubleheader at Emory G. Bauer Field as Sam Shaikin (West Hills, Calif. / Chatsworth) drilled a go-ahead solo homer in the sixth inning to put Valpo ahead 3-2 in an eventual 4-2 win. It didn’t come easy as Illinois State stranded a man at third in the eighth and left two aboard in the ninth, but Valpo held on to garner its first conference victory of the season. That came after Illinois State captured the opener of Saturday’s twinbill 12-6.
How It Happened – Game 1
- Valpo sprinted out to an early lead thanks to a three-run first inning that featured four singles plus a walk. Christian Barczi (Naperville, Ill. / Naperville North) came through with the big knock of the frame, a single that drove in a pair.
- The Redbirds (17-14, 2-1) got two back on one swing in the third when Derek Parola drilled a two-run homer to left to cut the lead to 3-2.
- Valpo expanded the edge in the fourth as Steven Fitzsimmons (Golden Valley, Minn. / Robbinsdale Cooper) ripped a one-out double and came around to score on a sacrifice fly by Jake Kapers (Schererville, Ind. / Mount Carmel) to make it 4-2.
- The Redbirds once again got two runs on one swing in the top of the fifth as John Rave homered down the right-field line to tie the game at four. A moment later, back-to-back doubles gave Illinois State its first lead at 5-4. By the time the inning came to an end, it was a five-run frame to put the guests ahead 7-4.
- Illinois State got one in the sixth then added its third home run of the game in the seventh, this time a solo blast by Gunner Peterson to make it 9-4. The Redbirds tacked on three unearned runs in the top of the ninth to up the lead to 12-4.
- Chase Dawson (Chesterton, Ind. / Andrean) ripped a two-run homer to right in the top of the ninth, accounting for the 12-6 final score.
Inside the Game – Game 1
- Dawson’s home run was his second of the season and the fifth of his collegiate career.
- Riley Dent (Long Beach, Calif. / Wilson), Dawson, Fitzsimmons and Barczi each collected multi-hit games in the opener.
- Billinger banged his seventh double of the season while Fitzsimmons picked up his fifth. They remain first and second on the club in two-baggers.
- Colin Fields (Libertyville, Ill. / Libertyville) took the loss to drop to 2-3 after allowing seven runs (six earned) on nine hits in 4 1/3 innings. He issued two walks and struck out one. Jeff Lindgren (3-2) was the winner despite allowing four runs on seven hits in five innings.
How It Happened – Game 2
- Valpo (6-21, 1-5) got off to a favorable start in the nightcap as Dawson lifted a sacrifice fly and Brent Jones (Ankeny, Iowa / Ankeny Centennial [Iowa Central]) poked a run-scoring single to right center in the opening inning. Shaikin doubled and scored in that frame to help Valpo to the early 2-0 edge.
- Starting pitcher Zach Fricke (Arlington Heights, Ill. / Buffalo Grove) battled control issues in the third when three walks and two hit batters led to two runs on no hits to tie the game. However, Fricke rebounded to work scoreless frames in the fourth and fifth.
- The Shaikin blast put Valpo on top in the sixth, then Ryan Wickman (Spring Green, Wis. / River Valley) drove in an insurance tally in the eighth.
- Jarrett Hammel (Brook, Ind. / South Newton [Saint Joseph’s College]) picked up his first win of the season thanks to two scoreless innings of relief before Easton Rhodehouse (Gilbert, Ariz. / Highland) nailed down his second save by keeping the Redbirds off the scoreboard in the eighth and ninth.
Inside the Game – Game 2
- Fricke walked five but struck out six while holding Illinois State to two runs on two hits in five innings and received no decision. Redbirds starting pitcher Matt Walker (1-5) was a tough-luck loser after allowing three runs on seven hits with one walk and 10 strikeouts in seven frames.
- Shaikin delivered two extra-base knocks while Dawson added a Game 2 double to his Game 1 big fly.
- Shaikin’s blast was his fourth of the year and the 17th of his Valpo career.
- Dent, Shaikin and Jones had two hits apiece in the nightcap.
Valpo will be back in action on Tuesday to host Chicago State at Emory G. Bauer Field. The game starts at 3 p.m. and can be heard on 95.1 FM Valparaiso and online via the TuneIn Radio app. Links to live audio and stats are available, and in-game updates will be provided on Twitter (@ValpoBaseball).